RIGHT ROYAL MESS

Last year 1800 pa­tients waited more than 24 hours in the Royal Ho­bart Hos­pi­tal’s emer­gency depart­ment In Mel­bourne’s four big hospi­tals there were 2

Mercury (Hobart) - - FRONT PAGE - LORETTA LOHBERGER

HEALTH Min­is­ter Sarah Court­ney wakes to­day to her first ma­jor test, with the Royal Ho­bart Hos­pi­tal’s emer­gency medicine di­rec­tor re­veal­ing a fa­cil­ity in cri­sis.

Dr Emma Huckerby re­vealed in the Coroners Court yes­ter­day that 1800 ad­mit­ted pa­tients last year waited more than 24 hours in the emer­gency depart­ment. That com­pared to just two across Mel­bourne’s four big hospi­tals.

HUNDREDS of pa­tients ad­mit­ted to the Royal Ho­bart Hos­pi­tal are wait­ing more than 24 hours in the emer­gency depart­ment be­fore they are given a ward bed — a sit­u­a­tion that is dis­pro­por­tion­ate to the rest of Aus­tralia and which the hos­pi­tal man­age­ment does not have the re­sources to ad­dress, an in­quest has heard.

The hos­pi­tal’s emer­gency medicine di­rec­tor Emma Huckerby yes­ter­day told an in­quest the is­sue of “ac­cess block” was com­plex and needed “a lot of” time, money and skills to fix.

“The de­gree of ac­cess block at the Royal Ho­bart Hos­pi­tal is dis­pro­por­tion­ate to the rest of Aus­tralia,” Dr Huckerby said.

She said more than 1800 pa­tients who were ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal last fi­nan­cial year spent more than 24 hours in the emer­gency depart­ment, com­pared with just two pa­tients at four large Mel­bourne hospi­tals — the Al­fred, Austin, St Vin­cent’s and Royal Mel­bourne — com­bined.

Dr Huckerby said man­agers at the RHH “don’t have any re­sources with which to ad­dress ac­cess block ef­fec­tively”.

Dr Huckerby was giv­ing ev­i­dence at the in­quest into the July 2016 death of Morn­ing­ton man Joseph Lattimer, 37, who died following an at­tempt to take his own life while he was wait­ing for ad­mis­sion to the Royal Ho­bart Hos­pi­tal for psy­chi­atric treat­ment.

Dr Huckerby said there had been an in­crease over­all in the num­ber of doc­tors and nurses work­ing in the emer­gency depart­ment since July 2016.

She said the depart­ment also had fund­ing for a psy­chi­atric emer­gency nurse ev­ery shift, but re­cruit­ing dif­fi­cul­ties meant not all shifts could be cov­ered, in­clud­ing 60 per cent of night shifts.

Tas­ma­nia’s chief psy­chi­a­trist Aaron Groves told the in­quest the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment at the Royal Ho­bart Hos­pi­tal made it more dif­fi­cult to re­cruit.

“It’s not a po­si­tion peo­ple would choose when there are va­can­cies else­where which are eas­ier to do,” Dr Groves said.

The in­quest heard Mr Lattimer was triaged when he ar­rived at the hos­pi­tal at 5.02am on July 10, 2016, but there were no psy­chi­atric beds or a suit­able emer­gency depart­ment bed for him at that time, and there was no psy­chi­atric emer­gency nurse on duty.

The in­quest, be­fore Coro­ner Olivia McTag­gart, will re­sume at a later date.

FIX IT: Health Min­is­ter Sarah tC­tourt­ney Court­ney rt­ney at the Royal Ho­bart re­cently.

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